illustration of a wolf standing in the forest looking toward a fallen tree that has pinned a man underneath

The Interlopers

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Ulrich and Georg's transition from enemies to friends in "The Interlopers."

Summary:

Ulrich and Georg transition from enemies to friends in "The Interlopers" after they are trapped under a fallen tree. Facing a common plight, they begin to see the futility of their feud. Ulrich offers Georg his wine, which leads to a mutual reconciliation and a pledge to end their families' long-standing dispute.

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How do Ulrich and Georg become friends in "The Interlopers"?

Ulrich is out patrolling his land, hoping to find Georg and perhaps catch him in the act of poaching. He and Georg meet and confront one another. Each man threatens the other. They seem poised for a deadly confrontation as both men are armed. But they both hesitate. During these moments of mutual hesitation, a storm hits and lightning strikes a tree, bringing it to the ground. Ulrich and Georg are trapped beneath the tree. Ulrich warns Georg that he will be sorry when his (Ulrich's) men arrive. Georg argues the same point, that his men are out on this night as well. They are both still threatening murder at this point. 

Neither man could get free of the downed tree. Ulrich concentrates his energy on opening his flask of wine. The wine is invigorating and Ulrich looks at Georg with pity. He offers him some wine. 

“Could you reach this flask if I threw it over to you?” asked Ulrich suddenly. “There is good wine in it, and one may as well be as comfortable as one can. Let us drink, even if tonight one of us dies.” 

Even though Georg refuses to drink with his enemy, Ulrich continues to lose the hateful feelings he has always had toward Georg. He tells Georg that if his men arrive first, that Georg will be freed first and unharmed. Georg pauses, warmed by this generous gesture, and responds that it would cause quite a stir if word got out that they had become friends. Georg concludes that they should become friends. The feud ends as a result of being in a dire situation together. With the wine, it is something like a "last supper," a time when they bond under extreme circumstances. 

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Why does Ulrich offer friendship to Georg in The Interlopers?

Ulrich von Gradwitz offers to be Georg Znaeym's friend because his own "pain and languor" as well as the sight of Georg's grim fight "against pain and exhaustion," both of them helplessly trapped under the tree, is lessening the "old fierce hatred" Ulrich has long felt for Georg.

Georg has made it clear that if his men find the pair of them first, he will make sure that they roll the tree onto Ulrich and make his death seem like an accident. In response, Ulrich has vowed the same fate for Georg if Ulrich's men arrive on the scene first. However, both men know it is a matter of chance whose men will come first and, so, which of them will die tonight. Ulrich reaches into his pocket for his flask, filled with good wine, and the liquid is "warming and reviving" to him, making it easier to bear the pain he's in. He has a "sudden" impulse, it seems, to be generous to his enemy.

Though Georg refuses the initial overture of peace, Ulrich declares that he has "changed [his] mind" and that he will instruct his men to help Georg even before they help Ulrich himself. He finds it ridiculous that they have "quarrelled like devils all [their] lives" over a small piece of forest where the "trees can't even stand upright in a breath of wind." He thinks that they've been "fools" to engage in this dispute for so long and that "there are better things in life" to do. He offers his friendship to Georg.

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Do Georg and Ulrich become friends after the conflict in the woods in "The Interlopers"?

Having held grudges against each other over land ownership through two generations, the Gradwitzes and the Znaeyms have longstanding animosities. But, when a life-and-death crisis holds them hostage one evening in the controversial woods, they reconsider the value of their hatred, and Ulrich von Gradwitz offers his neighbor friendship.

Having come around the trunk of a huge beech tree as he seeks his enemy, Ulrich comes face-to-face with his mortal enemy, Georg Znaeym. However, their civilized natures cause them to hesitate momentarily from firing their rifles, and in that split second, the mammoth tree is struck by lightning and crashes to the ground. Now, the enemies find themselves "pinned beneath the fallen mass."
It is at this point that the two men ponder their existential positions. Faced with the possibility of dying alongside his enemy, Ulrich perceives his hatred in relation to the dire conditions in which he now exists. "...Ulrich was feeling the old fierce hatred...dying down." He speaks to Znaeym, calling him "neighbor." Ulrich explains that he has changed his mind and feels that it has been ridiculous to have had a feud over "this stupid strip of forest." Therefore, he asks Georg to help him bury their feud, and he asks Znaeym, "I--I will ask you to be my friend." 

Silent for a time, Georg Znaeym considers the proposal of friendship from Ulrich von Gradwitz. Then, he agrees, wryly remarking on how the whole region "would stare and gabble" if they ride into the market square together. Finally, he says, "Ulrich von Gradwitz, I will be your friend." 

Clearly, faced with imminent death, the two foes reassess what should be valued and what should not: life being the most important thing, and secondly the value of friendship. Grudges are negative factors and, so are worthless; they should be discarded. These reasons are why the two men end their feud.

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